Blackland farmers from across the region toured sorghum, corn and cotton fields learning more about using high and low input crop production at the recent 54th Stiles Farm Foundation Field Day in Thrall.
The annual field day showcases the latest in production agriculture at the Stiles, which serves as a teaching platform for Blackland farmers throughout the region.
The field day is planned and conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in cooperation with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.
Ryan Collett, Stiles Farm manager, said conditions for commodities grown at the Stiles Farm, which funds operations, have been favorable this year.
“The corn in this whole area is looking pretty strong,” he said. “We should have a strong yield in grain sorghum. The sugarcane aphid issue is starting to come about again, but we are keeping a close eye on it. On the cotton side, we had to replant quite a bit of our cotton, about half. But what we didn’t replant looks pretty good and what we replanted made a stand and just needs some rain.
“Wheat was a little disappointing. We had plenty of grazing but had some hessian fly issues, and that kept yields pretty low. Hopefully with the cattle market peaking a bit, that’s where we are getting some benefit. Overall yields should be fairly strong this year.”
Farmers from Williamson, Bell and Hill counties were eager to learn more about a recent high/low input demonstration trial involving sorghum. Dr. Ronnie Schnell, AgriLife Extension agronomist from College Station, said the sorghum trial is comparing yields from plantings of 65,000 sorghum seeds to 80,000 seeds per acre.
“On the high input side, we are also evaluating 150 pounds of nitrogen to the acre,” he said. “At the end of the growing season we will harvest these trials and find out if we can make more money per acre by being more aggressive.”
Schnell said the sorghum had received nine inches of rain since planting, but with the recent temperatures warming up as the summer season progresses, heat stress is beginning to be a factor.
“We are also seeing some sugarcane aphids, so if we need to spray (the crop) we will spray it,” he said.
During the noon program, Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension interim associate director for state operations, unveiled an artist’s rendering of a proposed new education building at the Stiles Farm.
“This new education center will expand the farm’s capacity to reach the public, production agriculture and those wanting to learn more about production agriculture as a whole,” Miller said. “When we talk to our industry stakeholders, the number one issue we find is helping the urban audience understand more about the technologies it takes today to feed the world.”
Presentations were made during the lunch portion of the program. Bryce Leopold of Williamson County received a $4,500 Archie and Virginia Abrameit Stiles Farm Foundation youth scholarship. The scholarship was named after Archie Abrameit, who served 18 years and was only the second Stiles Farm manager in its history.
John Bigon was honored as Agribusiness Professional of the Year by the Williamson County Farm Bureau. Bignon, a U.S. Navy and World War II veteran, owned and operated the John Deere dealership in Taylor from the 1960s until recently selling the dealership to Coufal Prater. Bob Avant, president of the Williamson County Farm Bureau, who presented the award, said if a John Deere tractor was sold at auction within a 50-mile radius, “Mr. Bigon was there to make sure the farmer received what it was worth.”
Hutto farmer Michael Krueger was awarded the 2017 Agriculturalist of the Year. Krueger has been actively farming since his youth and took on full-time duties following the retirement of his father.
The Stiles Farm Foundation was established by the Stiles family at Thrall in Williamson County. According to the foundation, J.V. and H.A. Stiles wanted to commemorate their father, James E. Stiles, and the land he worked. They also wanted to help neighboring farmers and others throughout the Central Texas Blacklands region learn new farming practices. To do so, in 1961 the Stiles Farm Foundation was established and became part of the Texas A&M University System. The farm is used by AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research, which conduct field experiments and use the facility as a teaching platform.